Day 64 – National Soft Taco Day

I had a little more energy for celebrating today so I was ready to roll.  And who can’t get excited when Soft Tacos are on the menu?  Since I went a little easy on Sunday, I decided to up my game for today with a little extra.

Over the weekend, I was talking to my nephew and he told me he had no school on Monday.  I asked why and he said because it was Rosh Hashanah.  And so it is.  The Jewish New Year began on Sunday night at sundown and runs through Tuesday at sunset.  According to Judaism, Rosh Hashanah is the traditional anniversary of the creation of Adam and Eve and their first actions toward the believed realization of humanity’s role in God’s world.  I never knew that.  I actually never looked into what the holiday was all about.  Being raised a Catholic, you never learn those kinds of things.  As someone who is trying to celebrate everyday, shouldn’t I be paying attention to some of the holidays that the world is celebrating too and honoring them as well?

My paternal grandfather who died years before I was even born was Jewish and the story goes that when he married my grandmother, a Catholic, his family disowned him.  I’m not well-versed on my father’s side of the family history, and my father never said much about how this affected my grandfather.  I’m not sure he even knew.  But it would have been interesting to know that story and to hear about the history, the culture and the journey (the family name is from Austria-Hungary which couldn’t have been a great place for a Jew.)  But I don’t know anything about it.

Lola’s father was Jewish as were her paternal grandparents.  I know a little about their history from listening to family tales over the years.  Her father was steeped in Jewish traditions, especially the food kind.  Borscht, gefilte fish, bagels with shmears, knishes – he gobbled them up.  He also knew and used a fair amount of Yiddish words which always seemed to be the perfect word for the right situation.  And although he was culturally immersed in the culture, he was never much for the celebrations.  No Temple.  No Passover.  No Rosh Hashanah.  Maybe Lola’s grandparents would celebrate like that, but never in a way that Lola remembered.  I then thought maybe a little celebration of Rosh Hashanah would be a good way to honor our descendants, so I did what I could as a gentile armed with only the internet and a gut full of chutzpah.

I figured the best way to connect with this holiday would be through food so I looked up traditional food for Rosh Hashanah observances.  The first thing that popped up was eating a piece of apple dipped in honey which symbolizes our desire for a sweet year.  I sliced up an apple and poured out some honey in a little ramekin and served it to Lola who was searching for an afternoon snack.  She was impressed with my attempt to connect to the holiday and as it turns out, apples and honey are actually a pretty tasty snack.

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Next, I bought a pomegranate at Clement’s.  Pomegranates are symbolic of our Covenants with God (the seeds representing the 64 covenants).  Eating one symbolizes our wish to have a year full of mitzvot (religious duty) and good deeds.  I had never ‘opened’ a pomegranate before so it was a new adventure in fruiting.  It was easy enough after watching an instructional video on YouTube and the seeds mostly all plopped out.  Cherie had come over for a visit so I served her, Lola and Wavy a bowl of the seeds with wishes for a year filled with good deeds.  They were grateful, although the pomegranate was not quite ripe enough and they had to deal with the seeds you had to spit out.  Still, they happily joined in the tradition.

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When Wavy was here, I asked if she wanted to go down to the water and feed the ducks (which I knew really meant seagulls).  I had a bag of breadcrumbs and we both put on our shoes and marched down to the river.  I had read about the tradition of Tashlikh, meaning “cast away,” which is a ritual performed on Rosh Hashanah as a physical reminder of the human effort to cast away one’s sins. By casting crumbs of bread into the water, we “cast all our sins into the ocean’s depths” with intentions to return to our true selves. So Wavy and I tossed breadcrumbs into the sea, seagulls flocking in to grab their bounty.  We didn’t have any prayers to say, so I just had Wavy shout out “Happy New Year!” which she did.  The crumbs were gobbled up in now time, so we thanked the seagulls and returned to the house, both of us free from sin and on our way to being our true selves.

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It’s also traditional to eat something sweet during Rosh Hashanah in hopes that the year to come will be sweet as well.  I noticed that Apple Cakes were often referenced as being a traditional sweet (the apple is definitely connected to this celebration) and I found a recipe for one that looked good and easy.  It was too.  So I baked it in the afternoon and was able to send Cherie home with a piece.  Lola and I had ours later after dinner with a little ice cream.  Before we ate it, Lola said a quick Jewish prayer so we could commemorate our celebration in honor of our descendants.  She found the prayer online and I must say, her pronunciation sounded quite good. She could’ve been a cantor.  The cake was awesome – moist and sweet.  The top of the cake hardens and gets a crumbly texture that only got better with the sweetness of the ice cream.  If that cake is any indication, the year ahead will be filled with sweetness and good tidings.

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I know that Rosh Hashanah means more than just putting together a few food items and it is a day of great hope and holiness for those of the Jewish faith.  I just wanted to mark the occasion.  Part of celebrating everyday means you have to look at other cultures and religions, and that’s what today was about.  I treated each celebration with great respect.  We said prayers where we could and kept the true meaning of what we were doing at the forefront of our actions.  I really feel like we were connecting to our history.  So with great honor and respect, Shanah Tovah to one an all.
Don’t forget today was also National Soft Taco Day and we celebrated that too.  We went with steak tacos and I used a Chipotle and Garlic seasoning from Rick Bayless (who is a chef that runs some great restaurants in Chicago and who has some great videos on his Facebook page – you should get to know him).  Clement’s sells his seasonings in the International Food aisle.  I had a few ripe avocados, so I made up a quick guacamole.  I had bought some fresh corn too so I tossed together a quick corn salsa with some onions, cilantro and salsa and it came out fresh and tasty.  Finally, I made a red onion and cilantro mix – a must have for any taco.  For the soft tacos, I warmed up some flour tortillas but also heated up some soft corn tortillas as well.  You have to heat those up on a grill or in a pan, but your patience pays off because they give you a great taste to add to your taco construction.  I served all with some sour cream and some fresh lime.

These were some good tacos and Lola was even surprised.  She thought I was just making the boxed taco beef tacos (those are great too, just these had some love mixed in).  She even went in for a third taco which is always a good sign.  Taco nights are always great until it comes down to the dishes.  Is there a way to have a good taco night without using 100 plates?  I don’t think there is.  A small burden to pay for deliciousness.  All in all, a pretty happy taco celebration (plus leftovers for the next day!)

Next up: National Vodka Day 

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